Ottawa Citizen

Fraud allegation­s leave Harvest House staff reeling

Rehab program’s bookkeeper charged


Scott Caldwell went to Harvest House for rehabilita­tion about 12 years ago. He changed his life, got sober and took college courses.

He was a role model for others and even became Harvest House’s bookkeeper about five years ago, said Nicole Plaschy, executive director of the Christian-based rehab program and residentia­l centre in Gloucester.

Yesterday, Mr. Caldwell was charged by Ottawa police with theft- and fraud-related offences after the non-profit organizati­on noticed inconsiste­ncies during an audit within the last month.

The centre was embezzled out of more than $300,000 between 2005 and 2008, when money from Harvest House accounts was placed into another account, police said.

Ms. Plaschy said the charges against Mr. Caldwell, a father of two young children, have stunned 11 staff members and 24 clients at Harvest House, many of whom considered him family.

“We have been totally shocked and confused,” she said.

She said Mr. Caldwell was successful in the program and had received a bookkeepin­g certificat­e from Algonquin College. The missing money did not affect the centre’s program — nor did it result in any donations to Harvest House being compromise­d — but it has “impacted my ability to do more,” Ms. Plaschy said.

She said it is the first financial incident of its kind at the organizati­on, where many staff members do not get paid “all the time and regularly.”

“We took immediate action and took every necessary step to protect the integrity of this organizati­on,” she said.

The centre receives no government funding and has had problems in the past, including fundraisin­g and staffing issues with government. In a 2003 operationa­l review, Ontario’s Ministry of Health recommende­d implementi­ng a training program for staff and institutin­g ongoing staff appraisals.

However, Harvest House has also seen its clients finish high school, run marathons and improve their lives, Ms. Plaschy said. “This is a vibrant organizati­on that is changing lives.”

Mr. Caldwell could not be reached for comment yesterday. He was charged with theft over $5,000, fraud over $5,000, money laundering and possession of proceeds of crime. He is scheduled to appear in court on July 14.

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